Arsenal’s results have started gradually improving since Mikel Arteta took over from Unai Emery in December. Much more seems to be in place than before. There are clear ideas being implemented on the pitch, with every player working as hard as he can to fulfill the task given to him. However, it is the job of every manager to take constant looks at the squad at his disposal and ponder possible improvements; what needs to be strengthened, who are the players potentially not up to the standards required, would there be enough depth without them, and who could possibly take their places.
Granit Xhaka has been the target of some sharp criticism lately, with his performances continuously underwhelming. The Swiss international is known for his uncompromising battle style in the middle of the park, and he’s therefore expected to stamp his imprint and help Arsenal establish control over games. The expectations have only grown bigger after his selection as the team captain. However, it’s fair to say that he hasn’t lived up to those expectations at all.
The scrutiny the central midfielder finds himself under will only have increased further as he ducked down to let Scott McTominay’s shot sail over him and into the top corner in the 1-1 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday.
So the North London Derby ended in a draw, with the two teams scoring two goals apiece.
Perhaps it’s too early at the moment, but the immediate feeling is – disappointment. More than anything else, it feels like an opportunity missed, a chance for Arsenal to pull away from their fiercest rivals and closest neighbours gone down the drain. The teams could have been five points apart, a big advantage this early in the season, but as it is, the gap remains only two.
Thursday night was a poor one for Arsenal, as the Gunners went own 3-1 to Rennes in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 tie. Unai Emery’s side were actually ahead in the first half until the 41st-minute dismissal of Greek centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
The incident changed the course of the game, as the French side equalised straight from Benjamin Bourigeaud resulting free-kick. From then on Arsenal seemed to capitulate.
Poor away form continues
Arsenal’s poor away form continued in France. The defeat means the Gunners have lost their last two away games in the Europa League. Unai Emery’s team have now also won just two of their last 11 matches on their travels in all competitions.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos went off injured after only 20 minutes in Arsenal’s FA Cup 1-3 defeat to Manchester United on Friday following an aerial battle with Jesse Lingard. The misfortune was later severely compounded when Romelu Lukaku, apparently unintentionally, hit Laurent Koscielny on the jaw with his foot and forced the captain off as well. With Shkodran Mustafi already on for Sokratis, manager Unai Emery was forced to deploy midfielder Granit Xhaka at the heart of defence again.
Arsenal have beaten Burnley by 3-1 in the 18th round of the 2018/19 Premier League season, courtesy of goals from Pierre-Emerick Auubameyang (14′, 48′), and Alex Iwobi (90′). The solitary strike for the visitors was the work of Ashley Barnes (63′). The Gunners are still in fifth place, but now they’ve equaled Chelsea’s point tally as the Blues suffered defeat at home to Leicester City.
But the result aside for a moment, there were some interesting things to take from this game. Let’s take a look.
Arsenal defeated AFC Bournemouth on the south coast on Sunday by 1-2, courtesy of a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang second-half winner after Jefferson Lerma gave the Gunners the lead with a stunning own goal and Josh King equalized, both in the first half. The win added to the team’s unbeaten run in all competitions to make it 17 and counting.
And speaking to the club’s official website afterwards, Sokratis Papastathopoulos revealed there is more yet to come. The former Borussia Dortmund defender said this was only between 70 and 80% of the team’s capabilities, and that he and his teammates are aware of the areas where they need to improve to reach their maximum.
Arsenal currently have seven players on their injured list, and they’ve provided an update on their recovery progress via the official website. The season has entered it’s part when the schedule is jam-packed, and having as many players available as possible will be of vital importance for manager Unai Emery.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan injured his right ankle in Arsenal’s 4-2 win over Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League opener last Thursday. Having missed the Premier League clash with Everton on Sunday, he is currently being assessed ahead of the Carabao Cup game against Championship side Brentford on Wednesday.
According to Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny’s agent Stephane Courbis, the France international was considering leaving the club in the summer prior to rupturing his Achilles in the semi-finals of the Europa League against Atletico Madrid.
Could have exited in the summer
Talking to France Football (quoted by the Daily Star), Courbis said: “When he banged the floor with his hand, I immediately knew that it was serious, that it was over.
“Everything at that moment went through my mind, including the worst, which was validated when it emerged that it was an Achilles rupture and that he would miss the World Cup.
Arsenal defender Calum Chambers has signed a new contract with the north London club. The move comes after new Gunners boss Unai Emery reportedly told the former Southampton star he is in his plans for next season.
Chambers has struggled to nail down a starting position in North London since moving to the Gunners in 2014 from Southampton.
Not lived up to his supposed potential yet
The reason that Chambers has not yet nailed down a regular starting position is that he has not yet lived up to his supposed potential. Chambers arrived at Arsenal as one of the most promising young defenders in the country.